News for May 2013

Physical Health and Work

A recent email from Amanda at My Dialectical Life on treating a physical illness to reduce your vulnerability to emotional mind, is the inspiration for this article. This article stems from a conversation that I had with Amanda after reading the email. I have found Amanda’s daily emails through My Dialectical Life to very helpful and inspiring. They have helped turn my day around more than once since I signed up for the service.

Taking care of your physical health is very important to your mental health. When you are physically sick it reduces your ability to cope with daily stress factors, makes controlling how your react to things more difficult, and makes you more emotionally reactive. The more sick you are, the worse it gets. Unfortunately, a lot of times we neglect our physical health because we worry that if we take time off of work to take care of ourselves that it makes us less of a person than the people around us because we are sick. The past week I have been dealing with a bad case of bronchitis. I have had to figure out what the best course of action for me was. Do I take time off or do I go into work? How do I balance my health with my need to make money so I can take care of my wife, cat and I?

Personally, I worry about the following things:

  • What if I am out and people need me, will things come to a grinding halt?
  • <insert manager> will be pissed/I am going to get in trouble

 

It is difficult for me to deal with the thought of having too take time off to be sick, I think it is partly rooted in the way I brought up. I was raised with the basic concept that unless you are “dying” you drag yourself into work, because you made a commitment to the people you work for and work with and you should take that seriously. So, I think that plays into how I deal with things. What makes it so hard for me is that I am the only source of income for my wife, cat and I, so if I lose money we are in trouble. It takes about 1/2 of my monthly take home pay to cover just rent.

Over the past few years I have started to get better with handling these situations. I used to only really take time off if I was pondering going to the ER or running the bathroom for one reason or another. I once went to work with pneumonia, not realizing what it was at the time. I had had a really high fever, was coughing up a lung and was in agonizing pain. I originally thought the pain I was in was because of a pulled muscle from coughing as much as I was at the time.

The way I look at, or try to these days is to run through the following “checklist” (in no order), mostly subconsciously and quickly:

 

  • How sick am I? (e.g. Is the bathroom my new “best friend”? Should I be considering going to ER?)  => this is about the only one where if I say yes, I am definitely staying home

 

  1. What do I have going on at the office? Can they get by without me for the day? (e.g. Important Meetings, period in the project where I play a crucial role, etc)
  2. How much time have I missed lately?
  3. How much vacation time do I have?
  4. How many days are left in the pay period (only important if I do not have enough vacation time)
  5. Who am I working with (Do they have young kids? Is it someone I have a good relationship with and would be worried about putting in a bad spot?)
  6. What are my bills like this month? (Do I have higher than usual bills? Do I have extra expenses? etc)
  7. What is the weather like?
  8. How productive will I be?
  9. If I am on the fence, I may ask my wife what she thinks I should do.
  10. If I am at the doctor’s I will ask them if I should go into the office the next day or stay home. I figure they are trained and know what they are talking about, so I trust their judgement. It also absolves me of any ‘blame’. It allows me to say that I was doing what my doctor advised me to do.

I also weigh things like:

If I stay home I will probably feel better tomorrow and everything will be fine the next day vs. If I drag myself in to the office, I may get worse and miss more than just a day (this is where #8 comes in). This also costs me less money in the long, and is better for everyone involved.

I think to myself that, hey other people get sick and THEY call out; therefore, it is OK for ME to call out. I have as much right to be sick and stay home and take care of myself as they do. They are no better than I am, I am just as human as they

I also look for compromises/middle ground like:

Are there enough days left in the pay period that I can make up the hours by working late/not taking lunch/staying late?

Do I feel well enough that I can work from home, but too sick to go into the office physically and/or do I have something contagious?

Can I go in and leave early to accomplish something important but then go home?  (this really comes into play if I am in the center of something or have an important meeting)

I also will send an email to my teammates letting them know I will be out sick, but if something crucial comes up that they need my input for right away they can call me; otherwise, I will deal with any questions when I get back in to the office. This prevents me from feeling like I am abandoning them by providing them with a way to get in touch me if they really need me.

When possible, I also “delegate” things to other members of my team. For example, if I am the primary author on a document, I may ask one of the other people to take ownership of it while I am out to make sure it gets done on time. This also helps with mitigating the feeling of letting people down.

I think that is everything, at least everything I can think of right now. I am getting better with this, I think my wife being in the physical shape she is in from the accident and other health issues, has forced me to change my approach. I have to always keep in mind that she needs me healthy both physically and mentally. I cannot afford to take the same careless risks and disregard for myself that I could when I was single.

Edited: May 13th, 2013

Trigger Warning: “I Remember”

Every now and then I like to take a few moments to share a little about myself. I do not do it often, typically because I find the things I do write about to be more interesting and useful than the story of my life; however, today I have both the desire and need to share a little about my past.

This entry should be seen as potentially triggering and viewed with caution. The entry focuses on the affect a very severe car accident my wife and I had on the afternoon of July 3, 2009. If you find discussions and descriptions of auto accidents triggering, you may not wish to proceed. Even four years after the event it can still trigger me at times.

On July 3, 2009, my now wife and I were driving around Carteret, New Jersey heading back to my father’s house to get ready for a Fourth of July barbecue at a friend’s house.

My wife and I lived, and still do, in Virginia. I was taking her around to places I had worked, ate and hung out growing up. We had lunch at the Reo dinner in Woodbridge and banana splits at a nice little ice cream place, that had been a favorite of my mom’s, in Perth Amboy. As an aside, the ice cream place was wiped out during super storm Sandy in 2013, along with a lot if places from my younger days. After the banana splits we walked out onto the pier for a little while.

We drove around a bit and wound up in Carteret, which was one of the places I worked in my twenties.

As we were heading home we came to an intersection and stopped at the stop sign before going forward. That is when my world was thrown into chaos and hell. About midway through the intersection we were t-boned by a speeding Acura MDX. The force of the impact was so great that it pushed our car from the middle of the road across the street and into a telephone pole. It was so bad, that both my wife and I thought the car rolled over twice.

The front windows, sunroof and rear windshield were all shattered. My wife’s seat broke falling into the back seat and leaving her in a near horizontal position.

I remember the other drivers reaction, which was to jump out of her car and swear she did nothing wrong, telling I didn’t do anything wrong you saw it to the people that were outside. She never came over to see if there was anything she could do or if we were dead or alive. It is hard at times not to hate her and wish ill will on her, not because she hit us, but because of her reaction after she did.

I remember more of that accident than I wish I did. I remember sitting in the car waiting for the rescue personnel to get there. I remember being terrified that she was going to die there next to me in the car. I remember trying to keep her conscious for fear if she blacked out she would never wake up again. I remember screaming for someone to get help because I didn’t know the intersection. I remember the phone call she made to get parents. I remember watching the EMTs cut her out of the car over the course of an hour and a half. I remember sitting on the back of the ambulance and hearing them call for an airlift. I remember the EMTs trying to convince me it was just a precaution, not necessarily a necessity. They did wind up taking her by helicopter to a level one trauma center in Newark.

I remember telling the EMTs that I wouldn’t leave until she left. I remember being at the hospital in the ER getting the cut in my arm cleaned out. I remember them fast tracking me because all I could think about was needing to be there for her. I remember walking out of the ER and signing out AMA because fast track was taking too long. I remember sitting in the ER waiting room waiting for updates and to be allowed back in. I remember that it felt like a lifetime. I remember signing for her valuables.

I remember talking to the doctors to find out what they needed to do and what was the most important test they needed to do. I remember how angry and belligerent she was to the doctors, of course she was in a ton of pain so it was to be expected. I remember trying to calm her down enough to let them do the tests they needed to do. I remember succeeding too.

I remember sitting in the hallway at midnight, outside the room they had put in her. I remember that room, all the black and green from the monitors. I remember the nurse’s station in the room. The room had to have its own nurse because of the nature of everyone’s injuries. I remember my wife in traction, the slightest shift of the bed causing her agony. I remember the nurses “scolding me” because I still had not had my arm stitched up. I remember getting back upstairs at about 3 AM and having the nurses tell me that she was looking for me because she woke up in the middle of the night scared and disoriented.

I remember her surgeries and waiting for her. I remember arguing with her that she had to get a blood transfusion during the surgery because of her blood count. I remember her getting mad at me for ’emotionally blackmailing’ her into getting it. I tried everything to get her to agree to it because she was scared and stubborn. If she had not had to transfusion they could not have done the surgery and she would have been in traction for months in New Jersey, alone. I remember her saying if I did it again she would never speak to me again. I remember knowing that I was doing what I felt was best for her and if she hated me for it, that I would have to live with it, but I would know it was in her best interest.

I remember the month she was in the hospital and sleeping there with her in a chair for the whole time. I remember my dad being there every day. I remember a few of my friends and family members stopping by to check up on us. I remember the first time I had to leave the hospital to take care of some business, getting pictures of the scene, getting pictures of the cars, getting our stuff from the car, and looking for a new car. I remember how terrified I was to even be in a car. I remember clutching the door handle  so hard that my knuckles turned white.

I remember the months at the rehab center with her, sleeping on an air mattress next to her, then doing the same thing at her condo before we moved in together.

I remember how the event set me back years of a therapy. It took me over two years to get back to where I was before the accident, that two and half years started last year. Even now, almost four years later I still have trouble with coping with this event. I still cry at times over it. When I first started writing this entry two weeks ago, I wound up crying one of my contacts out on the metro heading to work. I have been afraid to touch this entry until today.

It has to be one of the worst and hardest days in my life so far.

Edited: May 13th, 2013

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